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Rhode Island's Tiny Home Rules & Regulations

Updated on:
August 25, 2023
Rhode Island's Tiny Home Rules & Regulations

Tiny houses are legal in Rhode Island, but there are a few caveats due to the state's building codes. Rhode Island has not yet adopted Appendix Q from the 2018 International Residential Code, which would ease additional constraints on tiny dwellings. Action in that direction is still pending.

Knowing the ins and outs of Rhode Island's tiny house laws can make all the difference for anyone interested in building a tiny house, joining a tiny house community, or considering an alternative way of living.

In this post, we'll delve into Rhode Island’s tiny home rules and regulations. 

We will review the legal framework for owning a tiny house in Rhode Island, the kinds of tiny houses allowed there, the areas friendly to tiny houses, and how much you should budget for your ideal tiny house. 

Are tiny houses legal in Rhode Island?

According to RI HB 7352, tiny homes on foundations are acceptable as accessory dwelling units in Rhode Island. Representatives Ackerman, Shekarchi, and Speakman introduced this bill on February 4, 2022.

According to the bill, tiny homes must only be auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs), not full-time residences. 

Rhode Island still has a long way to go, but this is a start in the right direction for those interested in tiny homes.

What kind of tiny houses are permitted in Rhode Island?

Tiny house in Rhode Island
Check out the Vista Boho, a tiny house constructed by the reputed construction firm Escape Tiny Homes.

Different kinds of tiny homes are permitted in Rhode Island, particularly those manufactured or custom-built and affixed to a permanent foundation. 

Are tiny houses on wheels permitted in Rhode Island?

A mobile home in Rhode Island must be registered before it can be categorized as an RV. 

Travel-friendly mobile homes are known as tiny houses on wheels (THOWs), also called recreational vehicles (RVs). A tiny house on wheels is perfect for those seeking a temporary home.

Are tiny houses on foundation permitted in Rhode Island?

A new state law now allows owners of single-family homes to build accessory dwelling units (ADUs). However, zoning restrictions determine your tiny house's minimal size. 

You might not be allowed to erect a tiny house on the land you buy. Additionally, no more than one secondary residence may be constructed on a single-family lot per acre.

Read also: Tiny Home Living Made Easy: How Self Storage Can Maximize Your Space and Simplify Your Life.

What requirements must a tiny house meet to comply with Rhode Island's building codes?

Rhode Island's building codes
View The Model 480, a stunning tiny home with a spacious modular studio or primary bedroom experience.

You will typically find three main types of tiny houses described below in Rhode Island, each with its own requirements:

Rules for permanent structures

Compliance with local zoning requirements and the state building code, which consider regional considerations and safety requirements, becomes a little more difficult for tiny dwellings constructed on foundations. 

They can also forbid you from purchasing land and constructing a tiny house. 

Instead, a single-family dwelling lot can only support the construction of a secondary unit. The minimum size requirements for your tiny house depend on the zone it is placed in, which is determined by zoning regulations. 

Currently, most cities and counties have a minimum square footage requirement of 1,000 feet, far higher than the normal small home requirement of 80 to 220 square feet.

Rules for temporary tiny houses

A tiny house can be constructed on a flatbed trailer or a wheeled base. A mobile home must be registered in Rhode Island before being categorized as an RV. 

Since zoning and building standards do not apply to RVs or mobile compact homes, complying with municipal regulations is often much simpler. 

Finding a place to park the RV and calculating the cost of yearly or monthly parking would be your main concerns. Potential parking spots could be at a house where you have permission to park, a campground, or an RV spot.

Rules for transitional structures

In Rhode Island, transitional buildings utilized for construction or other specific uses may have different criteria. Generally, they adhere to safety rules, have a clear end-of-use plan, and might demand that you obtain building permits. 

Respecting zoning laws and environmental regulations is also crucial. Contact local authorities to learn your specific use case's relevant laws and regulations.

What Rhode Island counties allow tiny houses? 

Several counties in Rhode Island are quite friendly to tiny housebuilders. At the same time, some prohibit staying in tiny homes. Contact the city offices to learn what is allowed in your Rhode Island county.

The following counties and municipalities in Rhode Island welcome tiny homes:

Providence County

In Providence County, Rhode Island, tiny houses are not permitted as livable dwellings. To live there permanently, the house must be a traditional size. In Providence, tiny houses are grouped with sheds or other structures to store gardening equipment.

Washington County

In Saunderstown, Rhode Island, tiny homes on foundations are permitted as long as they are used as ancillary dwelling units rather than as permanent residences.


Tiny house development is allowed in Narragansett. According to some rules, a foundation is unnecessary, but the building must be at least seven feet tall and adhere to the 127 mph wind zone standards.

Every home component should be considered when building it and constructed to have no harmful environmental effects. Before starting the construction process, three site plans and two construction plans must also be submitted.


Mobile tiny homes are prohibited in Bristol, Rhode Island, because tiny houses must be built on a foundation. There are no minimum square footage regulations in the city. 

Building inspectors are typically unnecessary if the residences are designed with space between them; nevertheless, a land surveyor may be needed to validate the properties' boundaries if the property is close to the other properties. 

Bristol Tiny Homes
View BOXABL CASITA, a revolutionary home built with the latest cutting-edge technology.

Can you permanently live in a tiny house in Rhode Island?

One can live permanently in a tiny house in Rhode Island, but the tiny home should be an accessory dwelling unit (ADU). 

How tiny can a house be in Rhode Island?

The minimum size requirements for your tiny house depend on the zone it is placed in, as determined by zoning regulations.

Currently, most cities and counties have a minimum square footage requirement of 1,000 feet, far higher than the normal small home requirement of 80 to 220 square feet.

Where can I build a tiny house in Rhode Island? 

Different zoning laws apply depending on where you want to put a tiny home in Rhode Island. 

Tiny house enthusiasts might want to consider contacting local zoning offices in cities across Rhode Island, such as: 

  • Providence
  • Kingstown
  • South Westerly
  • Cumberland
  • Newport

Do I have to pay property taxes for my tiny house?

The classification of a tiny house, how it is utilized, and whether or not it is on a foundation or wheels are all crucial factors when it comes to Rhode Island property taxes.

If your tiny house is built on a permanent foundation and is classified as a permanent habitation, it is typically subject to property taxes like other residential properties. 

The property tax assessment will be based on the value, size, and location of the tiny house on the land.

If regarded as an RV and movable, your tiny house might not be subject to property taxes like a regular dwelling. 

If you want to keep your RV in an RV park, you may have to pay additional fees or taxes, such as registration or park fees.

As a result, it's crucial to contact your local tax authorities and assessors to find out what specific property tax requirements your tiny house has based on its usage and categorization.

Read also: The Essential Guide to Your Tiny Home Improvement.

Can I build and put a tiny house in my backyard in Rhode Island?

You can build a tiny house in your backyard if you have the space and the local zoning laws allow it. You must contact your local municipality to determine the requirements for constructing a tiny house on your property.

Some cities and municipalities allow auxiliary dwelling units (ADUs), whereas others have stricter regulations. 

You must also ensure the small house is inside the confines of your yard and complies with all setback requirements.

Where can I park a tiny house on wheels in Rhode Island?

The options for where to establish a tiny house in Rhode Island include ADUs, RV parks, and backyards.

But depending on the building laws in each town, there are some places where tiny dwellings are not permitted. 

How much does it cost to build a Tiny House in Rhode Island?

In Rhode Island, a tiny house's cost per square foot ranges from $155 to $500. 

Prefab homes can cost anywhere between $100,000 and $500,000 or more, depending on their size, quality, and level of customization. 

You may also like: Tiny Homes Between $20-40k.

Are there tiny home communities in Rhode Island?

Tiny house communities come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. While some are intentional living communities where you can live permanently, others are resorts populated by vacationers. 

Although we are unaware of any tiny home villages in Rhode Island, look at these communities in nearby states:

Takeaway: Learn the key tiny house rules in Rhode Island before moving into one

Rhode Island's state-wide building regulations make tiny homes legal with a few restrictions. Rhode Island has not yet adopted Appendix Q from the 2018 International Residential Code, which eases restrictions on tiny homes. 

However, you must familiarize yourself with the fundamental laws and rules that apply to your chosen location before starting the exciting journey of living in a tiny house in Rhode Island. 

This way, you can bring your tiny home dreams to life without worrying about discontent in the future. 

Are you ready to join the tiny house movement but feeling lost about how to start constructing it? Get started with this practical guide: How to Build a Tiny House.

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